BE IMITATORS OF GOD 8-12-2018

I. As I read through the Scriptures – each week – certain words, phrases – just seem to pop out at me and cause me to wrestle with them and see how they speak to my everyday life.
A. An example of this came in the Second Reading of Paul to the Ephesians, “Be Imitators of God.”
How can I do that I thought? I started thinking about people in my life experience that had impressed me by the way they were trying to imitate this Compassionate God that we talk so much about.
I have a very powerful memory of some people of faith just like those of us here, putting flesh and blood, hands and eyes, a heart on the Compassion of God.
II. Some years back, I had the opportunity to attend a convention near Stanford University on Parish Life Today. A lot of people from 4 or 5 different states – very practical workshops on various aspects of Parish Ministry.
I chose to attend one workshop entitled, “Ministering to Persons with AIDS and their Loved Ones.” The speaker was Fr. Tony Maguire, at that time the pastor of Most Holy Redeemer in San Francisco’s Castro District, the heart of the gay community.
The description of the workshop went like this:
How a parish of “gays and gray” became a healing presence to a community ravaged by AIDS? This was done by means of growth in prayer, (liturgical, personal, devotional) and by developing service programs inspired by unconditional love and by opening the parish to the real needs of local community.
Fr. Maguire began to explain how all this took place.
A. The parish leadership began to realize there was a problem. Many young gay men dying all around them. What was the parish doing to minister to these people, children of God. The leadership believed all people deserve to die with dignity and with support and care of people around them.
B. The first thing the parish began to do was to pray – the petitions at Mass often mentioned the names of people with AIDS and their families. They reframed an old church practice called the 40 hour devotion and prayed for healing. What they found was that the more they prayed as a parish – the more their hearts become open – more sensitive.
C. What happened next was a process of education. Through lectures by doctors, nurses and psychologists they started dealing with the prejudices – phobias – questions/fears people had. This was a very slow process – which is ongoing. What all this did was to build some bridges of understanding between people.
D. They developed and trained working groups, 60 home care volunteers, (regular people like you and me), who made personal visits to people who were dying of AIDS. They brought them to Church, gave them attention, and listened to them. 80 support volunteers sent letters, cards, and hot meals to the families.
Maria Sorentino, an 80 year old Italian Nonna had been in the parish for 50 years; her ministry, hugging people in wheel chairs. When someone would question her she would say “MA!” They are people – just like me and you.
E. Fr. Maguire made it very clear that there were limits to the parish’s involvement. There was a clear moral line, anything and everything was not okay. That line however never got in the way of compassion.
Some real miracles began taking place; — people became more open to the Church that they had been away from for years. They experienced a more compassionate and hopeful and sensitive church.
Grieving parents found a place where they could come and express themselves. One lady said, “I come here each week from San Jose, (50 miles away) to find the support I need to cope with my son who is dying of AIDS. I can’t say anything in my own parish.
F. Fr. Maguire ended his presentation by quoting a male prostitute who was dying of AIDS, whom the parish was ministering to: –“In this death bed – I have finally found human love that I spent so long looking for. In this death bed through these people, I have finally found my God.”
Be imitators of God – Be compassionate, love one another. It does not say love one another (if) they are healthy – young – good looking – get good grades – agree with your moral standards – live like we think they should live.
It simply says: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Thank you people of Most Holy Redeemer for being Imitators of God.
Thank you people of San Carlos for also being Imitators of God.

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